Periodical cicadas- screamin’demon bugs
I live in Mississippi. Back in 2002 we were invaded by these horrible looking bugs. They made loud noise and had big wings and just all together freaked me the hell out. I would not leave my house unless I absolutely had to. Friends would pop in and if one got in the door way I would scream bloody murder and have someone get it out. One day one was on my car and I didn't want to get out of my truck and that thing get near me- so my crazy ass gets on the interstate...climbing speeds trying to knock that sucker off with the wind. Did it work? Nope. That thing rode with me through 3 different towns and back. Finally my friends mom just knocked it off like it was nothing. Another night during this nightmarish event we stopped at the Bowling Alley to speak to the on duty cop that was working. He walked up to the car and they were crawling all over him and he was just OK with it...mean while I screamed for my friend to roll the window up. I had a diary at the time and drew pictures of my hatred for these things. I was terrified. Finally, one night, I was getting ready to go out and one landed on me. I started screaming, ripping my clothes off out in my front yard, tumbled down the hill and was so stressed I started my period right then. LOL After that, they slowly started to go away...but they will be back- AND I WILL NOT BE ready. Just saying.....
My friend makes an
--a call collect---
on our cellular
across the board . . .
He says the cellphone
is the new Ouija
and I am sure
He's in the know.
I'm texting back in group
several years before, on
the memory of some
--every time my phone
disappears and reappears
in odd spots of the flat
or blinks menacingly
on the floor at night
I commune with the
You are out there
on a battery
And you say--
we are already dead
from God's perspective.
He Likes It, Hey Mikey!
When I was a kid, there was a Life Cereal commercial with a cute little boy named Mikey. In the commercial he is at the kitchen table with his brothers who won't eat the Life Cereal, "because it's supposed to be good for you". The brothers pass the bowl over to Mikey, assuming he won't eat it because, "he hates everything". Mikey surprises his brothers and eats the cereal, and they say to him, "he likes it, hey Mikey!"
Years later, when Mikey became a teenager, an urban legend arose that Mikey died. The cause of Mikey's death was that his stomach exploded because he ate Pop Rocks and washed them down with soda...SILLY!!!
I Don’t Like Hot Dogs, I Don’t Think, Do I?
We spend the majority of our struggles toward maturity trying to outgrow the fine mess our mothers made of us. That's what Sigmund said, anyway.
We dance around the Freudian concerns of breastfeeding, Oedipal affection and then separation anxiety, and just as we seem to be bottoming out of this psychiatric quagmire, we're suddenly struggling to understand this whole sex thing. And don't even get me started on Dad.
We are sexual beings. Strongly sexual. From love and affection to its end-result--us. We have to imagine our parents engaged in sex, and then we don't give it a second thought because we pledge to ourselves to never think about that a second time.
So what do we get served? Hot dogs.
Now we're supposed to think how condiments work better than condoms on these phallic objects of tubular meat, hugged so affectionately by vulvar bread called, of all things, a bun. And we're supposed to eat them! Put them into our mouths. And we once again struggle to stomp that particular, more refined, parental imagery into oblivion.
Oh, my God, but we're wicked! Mouths are made for eating and for sex. It obvious from the time breastfeed to survive to the time we breast-something for sex drive.
And we are wicked enough to equate the two--sex and eating--metaphorically, visually, and gustatorally--a new word construction I shall call a venereonym (gustatory + oral = gusta-oral = gustatorally--not redundant, not understating it, nor overstating it, but stating it--Yes, Goldilocks--"just right."
And how about those who cut the hot dogs into a little stack of coins? Are they sick or what?
Look, I know it's possibly a stretch to have a hangup with the whole penile existentialism because we turn the wrong corner at the county fair, cross the wrong kiosk at the mall, or just have a hankering for a penis-shaped food for our oral fixation. And is the foot-long version real or a myth?
But think about how much better sex is with marijuana...or how much better a hot dog hits the spot after smoking it. Munchies = Horny.
Now we're on to something. Pleasure is commutative when it comes to sex and hot dogs. So savor the dog-in-bun, if you can. Before you realize just how nasty the seemingly innocent tube-steak really is.
Ernest Hope Hemingway
I don't like dogs much. I wasn't raised with them, found them dirty, covered in slob, and loud. They are high maintenance, have too much energy, and are just generally too much.
I know it. You know it, too: dogs are America's sweethearts. Say a single negative thing about them, and it's like saying someone's baby is ugly. You just don't do it, in polite company, and in this case, on the internet.
During the pandemic, I was lonely. Oh no: here it is, the Twist. Yes, I got a dog. He's a corgi, because I am (of course) that basic of a b*tch. And to top off the basicness, I got him at two months old. Because, puppies. Need I say more? Not if you're also an American. I submitted.
Ernest was a terrible puppy: loud, dirty, and requiring massive amounts of training. But here's the thing: I was raised to believe that if someone who depends on you needs something, that person can be labeled Needy and can be told to F Off. It took many months for me to realize: this corgi puppy needs me to be Present for him. In a big way. It's taken almost three years, but I've come to realize (I think - oh no, here it is again, a Twist) that having a puppy is like being an actual mom.
I used to think people who referred to themselves as their dog's "mom" were obnoxious - and here's the thing! I still do. I refer to myself as the dog's "lady." Lady would like for Ernest to go outside. Lady would like Ernest to fetch the toy, etc. etc. Maybe I'm phobic to "motherhood", but actually, raising a dog, for me, has been like a catharsis: I'm a parent now, however I label it or don't label it. I have someone depending on me for everything. And that, initially, was quite terrifying. Especially for someone who was raised to believe that having "needs" (being loud, being dirty, etc.) were the equivalent of using a siren to wake you up at 3 o'clock in the morning. Unnecessary, wasteful, ugly.
Ernest has taught me how to be a mom - totally. I had to learn selflessness. I had to learn that just because Ernest is muddy, and loud, doesn't mean he has a personal vendetta against me. He doesn't want me to be angry. He's just a dog. I think of children in the same vein: they don't mean to make you angry, they're just being kids. Ernest ate my book once, the one I was almost finished with, and I got mad - but here's the thing (again) - it's not his fault. He's a dog. It's a beautiful thing, when you realize you don't have to hate everything that requires effort and time.
I love Ernest (full name: Ernest Hope Hemingway) to the moon and back. I kiss him constantly, give him belly rubs (which he loves), and, I think most importantly for both of us: I laugh at him, and his antics. When he eats the paper towels, I initially feel resentment, sure, but then - I laugh.
It's really fun, actually, being a dog parent. I proudly wear the title of Lady to Ernest. He's chill, and we have fun. It wasn't always like that when he was a puppy, but it is now, and I can also proudly say I've got some parenting experience (?) under my belt.
I go to Ikea after being forced to confront my childhood sexual trauma over the phone with my mother.
the mug is grey.
it is short and round.
I have not used it.
it sits buried on a shelf in the kitchen
and I fear the day someone touches it
like it is going to suddenly explode.
I am here for a wardrobe.
a set of cabinets that will help
me arrange my life
organize myself and belongings
finally, be free of the clutter on my floor
my mother's voice echoing
through the empty showcases
"Why didn't you tell me? I specifically asked you if anything had happened."
you are the kettle to my black pot.
my body is slowly shaking apart
the silence of the word, "what?"
whispered into a cellphone
listening ears all around
a star collapsing into itself
a black hole forming
she has no right.
she has no right.
each step is heavy
make a joke.
laugh. make eye contact.
there are marks on my skin that have been uncovered
can you see the flesh? the bones, the puss-filled maggots
can you smell it now?
put your hand in my side, and know the real me.
there is a future I will never get the chance to have
buried in the back of a bathroom shelf organizer
and the concept of a headboard.
and that's the worst part of it now
for the first time in over twenty years I want
and I hate the wounded animal living in my skin
it's so needy.
it is not kind.
nobody wants that.
I am so far from okay
I am standing on top of it
in a different plane of existence
looking at it
but unable to touch it.
have you ever wanted to die?
I wonder what it's like
to not feel,
but I remind myself
I've been there before,
and if I dont stop bleeding soon
I will have to see a doctor.
and they will open me up
look at my clockwork insides
the schematic instructions
for what a human should be set up
beside me on the table
and they will say,
yes, this ones broken.
they will poke and prod
and listen with a stethoscope.
my clockwork rhythm out of tune
skipping a beat,
"I am fine" I will say
"I have always been like this"
and I don't know if that's the sad part
that I know what unfixable means
or that I got so used to it,
I just assumed that's what music sounded like.
I’m going to die soon.
I’m going to die soon. I’ve had this feeling for about a year now. I’ve split my head open twice, now, in my life. The first time was when I was about 4 or 5. I was running on a playground that used small pebbles as its cushiony flooring. My feet slid, I fell forehead first onto the rocks. The only other thing I remember is my dad used my favorite Barney shirt to apply pressure to the bloody wound. The second time was last year, in Philadelphia, at Mac’s Tavern. I went to the bathroom and did not anticipate the door to be made of the lightest wood imaginable. I used too much force and the sharp length flung right into the center of my forehead, splicing me open. It healed into a faint scar.
I can’t get rid of this feeling that I am going to die soon. It weighs down my heart. I don’t know how it’s going to happen. Part of me thinks it will be by my own hand. This feeling started about a year ago (it’s 2023 right now). Quite a few of my family died within a matter of months. I lost a grandmother, grandfather, a man who is not my father but may as well have been, and the most gruesome was a childhood pet.
My best theory, so far, is that when they all died they started following me around. The second I split my head open, some of their ghosts wormed their way into my body through a combination of said split head and immediately going on a haunted cemetery tour. It’s sad that this is my best theory. It’s sad that part of me does want to die soon.
I keep waiting for it. My life, it keeps getting harder. It all feels tied to money. I want to take someone out, buy them dinner. I cannot afford it. Some weeks I can barely afford a bus pass. I’m not on all my medication so going outside is a bit hard right now. It’s not that I don’t want to be on my medication, I cannot afford it. That being said, last year I was on all my medication and still had this feeling.
I’m going to die soon. The feeling is bubbling back up. I cried in the bathroom at work tonight. Looked at the cleaning supplies. I thought about hurting myself. The heat of metal popping against my skin, even now, sounds relieving. I just kept crying. I can’t do that. I will not do that. I want to, though. I don’t know if believe that I’m actually going to die soon. I just wish things were easier.
I drove to the Moonlight Motel and knocked on the door of room 106. The Moonlight was a sleaze joint on the outskirts of town with the cheapest rates around. It was the kind of place where you looked around like your head was on a swivel. Scanning the cars, looking at the windows of the conjoining rooms to see if eyes peeked through the venetian blinds. But then you had to laugh at yourself because even if there were someone up here to spot you, their sins would be the same as yours. This was the lowest point for lonely travelers who were all looking for the same thing.
Mona didn’t answer. I knocked rhythmically for a couple of minutes before losing my patience to the harsh western winds. My right hand turned the knob slowly. The door stopped about three or four inches in. A rusted gold chain at eye level answered why.
“It’s just me, Mona. It’s just me, Johnny.” I said.
My face was pressed against the splintered wood, and with my right eye I could see her sitting at the edge of the bed. “Mona, can you open up? I’m cold.” She got up slowly and emotionlessly, dragging her bare blistered feet across the shag carpet before flicking the chain off its hinge and dragging her body back to the bed.
“Sorry, John. I’m just tired, ya know?” she said.
“Yeah. Boy, do I ever.” I took my jacket off and threw it over a chair in the corner of the room. We sat silently for a couple minutes. Then she sighed, got on her knees and began bouncing slowly on the bed while waving me over with her index finger. “Come here, big boy. Come see, mama. Lay your head between mama’s breasts,” she said, switching gears to work Mona. Playing out the scenario I most often requested from her.
“We don’t have to rush into this, Mona. Could we take our time?” I sat down on the bed, and she came over to massage my neck before kissing it, and rubbing down my bare chest to the buttons of my work pants. “Mona, Christ. Could we take a second, please? My back is sore as hell from shoveling shit all day. Could we just talk for a minute? Please?”
She didn’t answer. I turned around to see her wearing a face of unbridled anger and annoyance. She was pissed. She hated when I did this. It wasn’t what the hour was for. We both knew it, but I still did the same thing every week, anyway.
“Can we just fuck? So you can give me my money and hit the road.”
“I thought you liked my company,” I answered.
“Why do you always do this, John? Why do you always come here like we’re a fucking couple or something? I. Get. Paid. To. Fuck.” She said, clapping her hands together after each word.
I looked her in the eyes and held my stare. It made her uncomfortable because no one ever looked in her eyes to see what was in them and what was behind them. Looking in those sky blue irises would mean acknowledging that she was a human being. And that wasn’t good for rooms at the Moonlight Motel. Wasn’t good for business.
“Why do you do that?” She asked.
“Look at me.”
“Because I like you.”
“Because I see you.”
“What in the hell does that mean, Johnny? Stop trying to make me feel stupid.”
“I’m not, Mona. That’s the last thing I want. I just meant I look at you. I look in your eyes and I can see someone worth seeing, that’s all.”
“You know you only have an hour, right?”
“Yes, I do. And didn’t you tell me you’d do anything? Anything at all.”
“Then talk to me. Sit and spend the hour talking to me.”
“You heard me, Mona. Sit next to me. Talk to me.”
I patted the edge of the bed to my right. Signalling her over with a quick brush of my head. She just looked at me for a minute like a scared old battered dog experiencing love for the first time in its life. Wanting to believe it. Wanting to run towards it, but being fooled too many times to ever trust it.
“It’s alright, Mona. It’s alright.”
She extended her legs and timidly slid her body next to mine, Mona’s eyes scanning for a devil’s trick, but soon realizing there was nothing there but me.
I wrapped my arm around her like it was our first date at a drive-in. All of a sudden, it was just the two of us. Two people. Not a customer and worker, but two people alone in a motel room, with nothing but the sound of the baseboard heater humming like a swarm of angry flies, and the sound of Mona’s heart beating with nervous excitement.
“What did you dream of as a kid?” I asked.
“As a kid. I mean, no offense. But this couldn’t have been your dream. When you were a girl looking at a clear sky filled with stars, you weren’t dreaming of the Moonlight Motel”
“No, of course not,” she said. “No. It was never this.” and then she looked like a
traveller heading back in time, to places, and thoughts that hadn’t been allowed at the forefront of her mind for a long time.
I put my hand on her knee and rubbed softly with my thumb in a counterclockwise motion.
“It’s alright. It’s just me. I just want to talk.”
Tears were filling her eyes, and I took my hand from her knee and raised it slowly to the dark circles underneath. I wiped them and smiled at her. She took my hand in hers and kissed my palm. “I’m sorry, Johnny. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. It’s just been so long.”
“It’s okay. I know this is strange for you, hell it’s strange for me. I just realized I don’t talk anymore. I don’t know any folks anymore. And I wanted to know you. You’re the closest thing to a friend I have, Mona. And I ain’t just saying that.”
Mona was silent for a while. But I didn’t press the issue any further. I let her sit with it. Let her come to me on her own terms.
“An actress.” She eventually said in a decibel above a whisper. “Hollywood. A million miles from here.”
“Not quite that far,” I joked. “But yeah, it ain’t close. What brought you here? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“I don’t know. Money, I guess. It’s always fucking money. But I’ll admit when I was younger I actually enjoyed it, believe it or not. I liked sex. I liked it a lot, and I was young. When you’re young and beautiful, you get nice looking men. And if they’re not, they’re rich.” She laughed at this, but her eyes looked sad. Sad and ashamed. “But I guess like a lot of jobs. You get comfortable. People tell you you’re great at this and you’d be crazy to go off on your own. It’s a scary world out there. You’re safe here, and all the rest of the horseshit they peddle. Then you wake up one day, and you’re on the wrong end of 30, with a lifetime of sin and regret.”
“It’s never too late, Mona.”
“You’re still beautiful. You must have money stashed away somewhere,” I winked.
Mona shrugged her shoulders.
“A little, I guess.”
“Well, why don’t we take off? Let’s take off and go to Hollywood. I could be your agent. Set you up with the best gigs in town and make sure you’re compensated.” I flexed my biceps and added. “You don’t get what you’re worth. They’re going to have to go through me.”
This made her smile. For the first time since I began paying for Mona’s time, it looked real. It looked genuine.
It gave me a small insight into who she was before this life. The young girl who looked in the mirror and acted out the lines of her school plays. The one who screamed and jumped for joy when she received the lead in Romeo and Juliet. Mona Hatlee, the young girl from the broken home, would get to kiss Robby Reiger. And from there, the sky was the limit.
But inside those eyes was also the girl who went to Robby’s on the east side to go over their lines. Holding that smile until her face hurt. Laughing at everything he said, whether it was funny or not, because that’s just what you did. There was the kiss. The kiss that froze her in time. Then there was the walk home afterwards, along the railroad tracks, papers held tightly to her chest, dreaming of the wedding reception. That was all before Robby and his football buddies put her in the back of his Camry, raped her, and threw her back out onto the tracks, with her dreams scattered like the pages of the play.
“That would be nice.” Mona said.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty broke. Working as a farmhand in Lone Pine for twelve hours a day, and I’m still only getting pennies. We wouldn’t make it far on my salary.”
“Oh, we would do fine.” She added. “I have money.”
“Yeah.” Her eyes finally meeting mine. “I’ve been skimming some for years now. Still those little girl dreams of taking off. It’s all in a little black bag in my closet, piled under a whole stack of shit. It isn’t easy to get at. Money for a rainy day, I guess. If that day ever comes.”
I looked outside as soft rain splashed the motel window. “Well, maybe we should really do it then.”
“Maybe we should, Johnny. That would be something, wouldn’t it?”
I rubbed her right cheek with my callused hand and kissed her softly. She kissed me back, slowly sliding her tongue into my mouth. Something we rarely did in this room. Something she hated. But on that night, we made love. Slow, and without rush like we were the last two survivors of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
When we finished, I lit a cigarette, and we shared it. Mona was sprawled across my chest, looping her fingers around my curly chest hair, laughing as she straightened the hairs and watched them return to their natural position like a pig’s tail.
The clock said ten to 11. My time was nearly up. “Well, I should get going, girl.” I said, as I got up and walked over to my work jacket, hauling out the bills for the evening.
“No. No, Johnny. Please. It was wonderful. It really was.”
I insisted as she declined. We played a little back-and-forth game for a minute before I stuffed the bills back in the breast pocket of my work shirt and kissed her again. “I’ll pay ya double next time.” She laughed, then blushed.
“Well, I should get going, Mona.”
“We’ll get out of here soon, I promise, baby. Me and you, we won’t ever see this motel or this room again. I promise you.”
“Don’t hold your breath, but don’t lose faith soon.”
“I could love you, Johnny. I really could.”
“Way ahead of you, baby.” I put my jacket on, opened the door, and walked across the parking lot to my car.
Inside, I pounded on the steering wheel. “FUCK! FUCK! FUUUCK!” I cried, and then my phone buzzed. “No, please no! Please, God, no!”
I almost didn’t answer it, and ran back to room 108 to grab Mona and fly down Highway 29. But then headlights from the far end of the Moonlight Motel began to flicker. They were here. They were telling me to pick up the goddamn phone, or I was next.
I took a deep breath and answered it.
“Yeah.” I said. “ Yeah. Yeah, she has the money. It’s at her place. Yeah. Yeah. Under a bunch of shit she said. In a black bag. In her closet”
I hung up.
Then the red Toyota pulled up in front of Mona’s room. Two men got out and knocked on the door. This time, Mona opened it without the chain. And the men had the bag over her head before she had time to change the expression on her face.
They dragged her out to the car. Threw her in the backseat and drove towards me. I rolled down the window as the driver threw a thick brown envelope into the passenger side. It landed on the seat.
“I’m sorry, Mona. Christ. I’m sorry.”